By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)
This past Sunday, thousands of churches took part in Freedom Sunday, a worldwide event to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. Freedom Sunday is organized by Not for Sale, a non-profit that fights modern day slavery based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This event is malleable in that it allows individual churches to deal with the issue in whatever way they want. Not For Sale just sends churches suggested content and the churches use the materials as they see fit.
The purpose of the event is to mobilize the church to fight modern day slavery. In a video promoting Freedom Sunday, David Batsone, president of Not For Sale says “I’m really convinced that the church should be leading on abolitionist work. It’s a part of our DNA, a part of our basic reason for being.” The Freedom Sunday website further explains why the church must be involved in the fight: “Jesus was the original Abolitionist. His message of freedom will be proclaimed in unity around the world.”
As the central message of Christianity is the reconciliation and redemption of the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a Christian by definition is one who has both experienced redemption from spiritual slavery and is committed to extending that redemption to the world. Yet Christianity is not exclusively concerned with a future spiritual reality, for the Bible shows us a God who is also redeeming our present broken reality. Therefore as Christians we must also be vigilant in bringing Christ’s shalom and justice to the darkest evils and institution of our broken world. We must take God’s call to “…Seek justice, [and] Relieve the oppressed…” seriously (Isaiah 1:17, WEB).
Just as Christians such as William Wilberforce have worked hard to end slavery in their times, we must continue their tradition and set the captive free. With over 30,000,000 individuals enslaved around the world, the prospect of bringing an end to this tragic evil can seem very overwhelming (Statistic from Freedom Sunday Website). Yet as Americans, we need only to look into our history to find hard evidence that slavery can be stopped.
This past January we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the monumental occasion on which Abraham Lincoln declared slaves free. This event was a turning point in America and began the long journey toward equal rights for African Americans. Though there is still racism and injustice committed against African-Americans today, America has come a long way. African-Americans have gone from being worth three fifths of a vote to being treated as the normal humans they are and accomplishing great things amidst adversity.
February is Black History Month and thus is an opportunity to ponder the great progress that has been made toward equality. During this month, we remember the great accomplishment of individuals such as Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, and John M. Perkins, a Christian civil rights activist. Pondering America’s rich Black History shows us that there is hope to end other injustices riddling the world. We are reminded that injustice is not a status quo we must succumb to but a wall that can be broken down.
We go forward in this work with hope since Christ broke down the wall of injustice on the cross. He paid the price for our injustice in order to set free humanity, end these damning cycles of injustice, and restore us to true worship of God. Armed with the Holy Spirit, we will transform this deep darkness of slavery into the light of freedom.
Aaron Gaglia is an intern and writer for the Washington D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy and can be followed on Twitter.